Preparations for the onset of winter are well under way at Stoke-on-Trent City Council.
Crews are gearing up for the gritting season, with a number of new vehicles in the fleet and plenty of grit salt stockpiled.
Councillor Ruth Rosenau, cabinet member for regeneration, planning and transportation, said the council aims to make the streets safe for road users and keep traffic on the move - even in the worst winter weather.
She said: “Over the winter period our main priority is to keep people safe and we want to be as prepared as possible. It is imperative that our roads are operational and safe to use.
“Of course the gritting teams are the heroes – but a tremendous amount of work goes on behind the scenes, with planning and preparation and making the right judgment calls.”
The council currently has a stockpile of 2,500 tonnes of rock salt and has orders in place for more to arrive.
The two main jobs will be spreading salt to prevent ice forming, or to help thaw ice and snow and clearing snow when it has built-up on roads.
Decisions over whether or not to turn out are made on a daily basis by the duty officer, who checks the Met Office weather prediction website each morning for the likely road surface temperature, air temperature, rain prediction, wind prediction and direction and the likelihood of snow and frost.
Sensors in the surface of key roads around the county also help officers make more informed decisions.
The city currently has nine gritting vehicles and a Land Rover and trailer for less-accessible areas.
For the first time this year, the city is employing a full-time night shift to carry out gritting work, as well as employing a number of drivers who are volunteers to carry out gritting work in addition to their normal day job.
These volunteers work for the city council’s highways, ground and cleansing sections and are all trained Large Goods Vehicle drivers with specialist skills associated with winter maintenance.
Grit salt is stocked at designated areas throughout the city so that there is enough for the council gritters to turn out 120 times in frost conditions and 30 times in snow conditions during the season. Should conditions require additional call-outs, the city council has arrangements with salt mines to obtain more.
Approximately 150 miles of roads will be treated each time the gritters are called out. This includes all major roads, regular and frequent bus routes, plus some infrequent bus routes which are part of the main network and access roads to emergency services including police, ambulance stations and hospitals.
There are also around 400 self-help salt bins located around the city. These are filled when required during the season. Please call 01782 237061 to request a grit bin be refilled.
For the most up-to-date information keep in touch on Twitter and Facebook.
Frequently Asked Questions:
Which roads are gritted?
When there is the risk of snow or ice forming on the road, Stoke-on-Trent City Council salt approximately 150 miles of our total road network. With limited resources and available finance it is essential that the Primary Network is treated first. More information regarding prioritised routes can be found in the winter service policy.
Are pedestrian routes gritted?
Stoke-on-Trent City Council does not generally treat footways as priority is always given to the road network. However, in prolonged periods of adverse conditions, footways in town centres will be treated after the road network has been successfully treated as and when resources allow.
Who is in charge of gritting the roads?
Stoke-on-Trent City Council is responsible for providing a winter service on adopted public highways within the city except for any trunk roads such as the A500.
How can I get more information on gritting?
Throughout the winter period when the gritting season starts you can find out more information on our website. This show a map of where our planned routes are. We also have a VMS system throughout the city that has up dated information to say when we are going out to grit. This year we have information posted on Facebook and Twitter.
How do Stoke-on-Trent City Council know when to grit?
Stoke-on-Trent City Council’s weather information is obtained from specialist forecasters that have roadside monitoring stations at two sites throughout the county. This information is then recorded on their website and daily weather forecasts are updated frequently. The site also shows you what other councils are planning to do in the surrounding areas. We can also look on the Met office website. When available forecast information is uncertain or conditions are changing unpredictably, winter service inspectors may be mobilized to report on conditions along pre-determined routes or at specific points of interest. These sources of information inform treatment decisions that are made by the duty winter service supervisor.
How does the salt work?
Salt works by lowering the temperature at which water freezes. It relies on the action of vehicle tyres to be spread over the road and mix the salt in with the snow and ice, so requires traffic to be effective. Salt will work at temperatures down to minus 8-10 degrees Celsius. Below that roads will still freeze.
Why did you not grit last night? My windows were thick of frost!
Roads are treated when the road surface temperature is forecast to drop low enough to cause:
Hoar-Frost: This is when moisture forms on the ground because the dew point has become saturated and the air is unable to hold any moisture.
Ice: We class this as when the roads are wet and the road surface temperature has dropped below zero.
Car windscreens and their roof will show ice when the air temperature is below zero as the glass and metal of the roof are unable to hold the temperature. The road holds heat for longer due to its make-up, so this manages to keep the road surface above freeing. During long, clear nights the road loses its heat and then with a prolonged cold spell it struggles to retain heat, this is when the frost occurs on the ground so gritting would be required.